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I am the IT manager for my employer, a small office of about 15 people. My boss is not proficient with networking, websites, or anything technical past skimming an article or something his "friend" has. He doesn't have a technical background in any sense of the word.

Some examples:

  • Adds/plugs in, moves, or disconnects things from the networking equipment, leaving the office in an unusable state for days.

  • He has a limited understanding of websites and SEO and expects unrealistic results. (Views from nothing)

  • Won't take my advice on equipment and other items to buy so everything is constantly breaking or not right for the office environment.

  • Literally everything he overrides me on ends up breaking in the worst way or being completely ineffective. At which point I have to spend more time fixing stuff.

Every time I try to point him in the right direction and why that won't work he falls back on, "He has a friend that does it this way", or his incorrect/broken way is "More Intuitive". I've thought about the analogy of him ripping wires out of his car in front the mechanics, then complaining his car doesn't work. It's getting to the point where I feel disrespected. Yeah he is paying me, but I also feel like he is wasting my time using me as an undo button while he tries to learn IT stuff.

How can I kindly talk to my boss about leaving the technical stuff alone in the office and online?

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    What's your position in the company? Were you hired to manage the "IT" stuff? Is managing the "IT" stuff in your job description?
    – joeqwerty
    Mar 30 at 0:43
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    @joeqwerty IT Manager.
    – T. Thomas
    Mar 30 at 1:52
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    Presumably your boss isn't breaking things just to break things. He's trying to get something done. Any way you can find out what he wants and do it yourself, the right way? Prioritize what he wants so he's not busy breaking stuff?
    – DaveG
    Mar 30 at 1:58
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    This feels a lot like what happened with a former boss--I didn't know it at the time but he was developing dementia. Mar 30 at 2:03
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    "It's getting to the point where I feel disrespected" this is because he is disrespecting you.
    – Purrrple
    Mar 30 at 8:09

5 Answers 5

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How can I persuade my non-technical boss to stop interfering with IT systems?

Provide your boss with tangible evidence of how their interference is not good for the company. You already know that he will not listen to advice, documentation,....etc especially if it goes against his notion of how things should work or what he thinks his friend does. You need to provide evidence of how is actions are causing an issue for the company.

So the next time he unplugs a cable for example, you notify him about the situation. Don't accuse or blame him or even mention him, just detail the facts that you discovered caused the issue and how this issue affected the business negatively. You can say something like:

Hey boss it was reported to me that employees X,Y,Z were unable to do any work due to a network connectivity issue. After investigation I discovered that a cable at location F which is crucial to these employees being able to work was unplugged. After plugging in the cable into the correct receptacle the employees were once again able to do their work.

This is fine for reporting the incident and letting him indirectly know how his actions caused a problem for the company.

The next step is to propose measures to prevent this from happening again. Always try to have a solution to issues so at the very least they think about their actions next time. In this case you can propose some sort of access control to the equipment location or surveillance system. Being that he is the owner this all may ultimately fall on deaf ears but at least it is something you can try. If the behavior continues it is probably time to look for a new company to work for.

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    +1 I'd also try to quantify the damage the guy is doing "three people lost two hours today because of..." or "project X has slipped by a couple of days because y and z happened..." or "network support couldn't do A because they spent all morning troubleshooting B" Mar 30 at 14:58
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I think the biggest problem you have seems to be a communication and trust issue. Try to find out why your boss trusts hearsay of a friend more than your professional opinion. Sit down in an 1:1 and get some feedback from your boss. Does he think you are a capable IT manager? Why has he decided to not take your advice in the past? Does he know that his actions have a negative impact?

Quantify how the bosses behaviour affects the business. Do it as neutral and non-confrontional as possible. List incidents and their outcome. Ideally you have some incidents who aren't blatantly the bosses fault, but maybe more of a "joint screw up" of multiple persons. That helps to soften the blow.

Then ask him if he thinks you need better IT processes to prevent those things from happening. If he says yes, propose a process. Don't try to block the boss out of IT decisions. It's his company after all. But make it clear that you are the professional, that it's your responsibility to make sure the company IT works, and that you don't like to be overridden on technical decisions.

In the end, it's the bosses decision. If he does not mind that his actions burn money, it's his right to continue to act this way.

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  • ....and why is he unplugging stuff? Are there IT issues that are not getting dealt with in a timely fashion that means he feels obliged to "help" out? Are IT issues going straight to him instead of the proper channels? Mar 30 at 16:22
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Your boss is trying to improve and help with IT but causing more damage due to his lack of knowledge. When you adjust the outlook in this direction you'll find the answer lies in the question.

Has anyone suggested his lack of knowledge would be less of an issue if he had some knowledge? I feel sorry for the guy as he seems to want to help.

As you are the IT manager, you have to directly involve him in setting up some control measures so no one can make changes without your permission and any changes must be only done by qualified people. You'll have to tell him what training he would need and why this is necessary.

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    Your point 1 was already answered in comments.
    – Solar Mike
    Mar 30 at 6:38
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    He is the owner and I am the IT Manager. There is also this point to consider. "It's getting to the point where I feel disrespected. Yeah he is paying me, but I also feel like he is wasting my time using me as an undo button while he tries to learn IT stuff." He expect this on top of the day to day IT business needs and issues.
    – T. Thomas
    Mar 30 at 8:04
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Based on the OP's comment that "If he (the owner/boss) asks a question and he doesn't like the answer he will either insist or do it himself" it's clear that the answer has to be "sure, I'll do that". Saying "no" just doesn't accomplish anything.

BUT... it's a little more nuanced. First, find out what the boss is actually trying to do. He may say "we need to expose the financial database to the Internet" but what is he actually trying to accomplish?

Second, make the cost clear. In other words, "Sure, I'll take on this project, it will take about a week. I'll put implementing the dev environment for that new big customer project on hold".

Of course it will be annoying. A lot of what's done may be a waste of time. But as long as the boss understands the costs, it's his call as to whether it makes sense or not. I had a similar problem where a high up exec kept demanding a project that was going to take 4-5 months. No one else wanted it... not the customers, not the sales people, not the support people. I put it off as long as possible, but eventually I had to do the project. Sometimes you just have to let managers and bosses have their way, and hope it doesn't cost the company too much.

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You don't have to persuade him. Its not your job.

Your job is to report facts to him as clearly as you can. This should be your only goal. To achieve this if you have to go in detail, do so. If you get a little emotional in the process, so be it. ofcourse don't overdo the emotional part but also dont worry too much about it. Certainly don't let anything come in the way of being clear.

If he would have trust you then your job would also be to give your professional opinion. He don't trust you. If he would he wouldn't be interfering. So, don't give him your professional opinion just yet, wait till he ask for it.

If he wants to daily break his network system and have his employees rebuild it again and again its his choice. You don't have to persuade him to not do it.

You just have to tell him what he is doing and what are its consequences. You just have to make things clear to him.

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